Tuesday, May 10, 2005

It's the last non-testing day of English with Professor Elsewhere, and while he is out of the room, again, we are writing and turning in our anonymous course evaluations. He has been trying to be my buddy lately, making a point to talk to me after class or during breaks, effectively asking my forgiveness for every bullshit correction he makes to my papers. (Commas that shouldn't be added. Words that shouldn't be changed. And god forbid one should exercise voice and use a very intentional sentence fragment, because the thought process involved in this would kill him.)

If he were a typical jackass, one of those big mouth, powerhouse professors who gets kicks from belittling students, I'd argue every point with him until his great big inflated head was chopped up in little pieces on the floor, but this guy's different; subtle. He thinks he's right because no one's ever had the heart to tell him he's so wrong. He's girlish and sensitive, and, much like the English Teacher on Daria, I expect he'd cry if I got confrontational about his unwarranted loyalty to archaic rules of English. Little girly tears.

In the end, it's this image, and not his attempts to win my favor with his frail, apologetic charm that keep me from ripping him apart on my evaluation. I am, by no standards, kind, but I don't go as far as I'd like to: I get a cramp from disguising my handwriting and become nauseous by writing all my complaints in simple, undeveloped sentences which serve both to hide my identity and make my point about his teaching deficiencies. (Teacher is not present in class. Teacher does not help student(s) understand. Teacher grades strict!! :-[ :-[ :-[ !!!)

Take that, Professor Elsewhere!

After we're finished with that and, in a shocking turn of events, he still hasn't returned from the room, Irene, who sits behind me to the right starts up a conversation. She is forty-ish, heavy-set and tries harder to voice her frustrations than many of others. She reminds me a lot of my mother, and the one essay I peer-edited for her didn't make me want to kick the educational system of America square in the crotch. That's always a plus.

She had made a point to comment to me, when I handed it back, how grateful she was that I put real time and effort into the corrections I made, and while this should have made me feel good, it gave me a feeling of uneasiness and doubt: it wasn't real time, it wasn't real effort. It was the same ease I've always had with everything, the sheer ability to do what is assigned. Knowing I can do whatever's out there should, one would think, make me want to do it, but it's always had the opposite affect of making me lazy, realizing I can get by with less effort than others. If only I'd had a Ben Affleck-character telling me it's my duty to succeed, in debt to the people who work as hard as they can, only to achieve far less than I could with the slightest effort. (IE Goodwill Hunting, in case you didn't get the reference.)

Irene is telling me she'd love to read some of my stuff. She is asking me if I will transfer after this class is over, telling me I should go to a university that can really foster my talents (but not in such big words.) The surrounding students agree that they notice the ease with which I speak, write, and learn. They are calling me gifted. I am telling them they should see me in an algebra class, I wouldn't seem so gifted then. (I carefully leave out that I've only failed what I didn't try. I leave out that in every assessment test I've ever taken, the results clearly spell out that I could do whatever I wanted to, succeed at anything.) I tell them it's not all it's cracked up to be to be gifted. This part, I mean.

Irene is asking why I'm in the paralegal studies program. She tells me I should be writing. This idea I've been struggling with in and out for years, moreso since last Thursday, when Zack and I visited SMCC. It was simple, but beautiful in all it's Not-Andover-ness. It had multiple buildings, a student lounge, electives and classes about art and literature and things I care about. Realistically, though, I'd have to re-route my life entirely to pursue this. I'd have to find a way to support myself while attending school full time (more full time). I'd have to completely screw up my work schedule and comp the paralegal credits I've already earned. I'd have to, you know, do something.

And, as mentioned before, that's just not something I do.

Irene is telling me I'm a great writer. Irene is telling me that the teacher's seen a lot of students, and if he's singled me out, that must mean something.

There is no good way to tell her that I'm only the big fish because this is such a fucking insignificant pond. There is no good way to tell her that I know, off the top of my head, twenty people who can already write better than me, it's just that they're all elsewhere, taking the right paths, doing the right things, going to the right schools. There's no good way to bring it to her attention that this is the bottom of the barrel. I can't just tell her I only seem like a shark because she's a tadpole.

So I smile and turn forward again. A real writer would have found a way to say it.

On with it.


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